Companies getting current green card holders visas are likely to see prices increase for visas that allow foreigners to move to the US
Here’s who will be able to get into the US more easily — and whose trip just got harder
The Green Card program has used many names since its creation in 1965, but you probably know it best as the H-1B visa. Those who hold this special visa can move to the US and work here temporarily, and will not have to do long-term national security checks – unlike permanent residents who immigrate with green cards. However, there are new wrinkles to its application process that suggest an apparent upswing in fraud.
In an update to the rules that govern how current H-1B visa holders are getting permission to travel to the US more often, VisaUSA, a US state department data arm, announced that it plans to discontinue electronic “dual-entry” applications – which allow non-H-1B holders to use the more-cautious national security checks while they still obtain their H-1B visas – until April 21. Those applications must be submitted before 30 September or face disqualification.
The visa office said they were taking this action to stop widespread application fraud, which they told the New York Times leads to a “high-risk period” in their visa processing schedule. The USCIS said that they did not intend for the change to affect the number of green cards approved or denied.
Since 1949, the H-1B, created to give skilled foreign workers the chance to come to the US with a cheaper and faster green card, has been at the heart of debates about which workers could come to the US and in what jobs. Tech companies like to use the workers; government regulators say this is a loophole that encourages immigrants to get ahead in their fields at the expense of American workers.
After massive anti-immigration gains in 2016 elections, however, the US began a push back against the perceived free-wheeling tactics of the tech industry and business leaders – such as the winners of the technology industry’s annual awards who have criticised President Trump – who promoted a version of the H-1B program as a boon to American workers.
But advocates for immigration say the “cheaper” H-1B program has dramatically increased the number of workers being brought in to make up for under-resourced industries. It’s a complex issue – often referred to as a fight over the value of “immigrants and foreign workers” – and one that is being disputed even as the US is planning to soon impose an across-the-board ban on its use in certain cases.
Today, 89% of H-1B visas go to people who have trained or worked for a US employer. But the USA Today reported in August that the green card system will now be downgraded to allow those “knowledge workers” to move to the US without going through the additional rigmarole of passing a preliminary security check. Previously, such persons have had to demonstrate that they’ve dedicated time to learning new knowledge or skills for their employers. The USCIS said that they expected this change to be phased in starting in January, which meant that anyone who obtained a H-1B visa last year would be ineligible to get such a visa again starting in October.
“President Trump and his administration have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from the status quo. This purported scaling back of the H-1B program fits with that strategy,” immigration lawyer and author Nathan White said in a statement in August.
“Using a shift in the law to eviscerate the current H-1B framework and replace it with a new, ostensibly friendlier H-1B cap, two years of studies and promises to change the prevailing political winds that proved irrelevant to his already-failed campaign promises,” White added.